Happy Birthday, Sam!

Today marks the centenary of the birth of Samuel Beckett, born 13th April 1906, and to tie in with the Centenary Festival, here are a few links. The Guardian has a collection of its recent articles on Beckett, while RTÉ has its own round-up, including online links to some of the radio plays and Stunned has a timely image. Happy birthday, Sam!

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  • mickhall

    As someone who has often had a problem getting his head around Beckett, in a few words [if poss] what makes him such a great playwrite.

    regards.

  • TL

    …I’m waiting to wish him a Happy Birthday

  • nmc

    I’m no Beckett expert, but one of my favourite plays is Waiting for Godot. IMHO, his greatness is based around the simplicity of his work, and his amazing dark sense of humour.

  • Deaglan

    Mick, I’m not sure if this is any use to you but reading the official biog ‘Damned to Fame’ by James Knowlson was a big help to me.

    Also, although I’m not really qualified to speak here I still think ‘Endgame’ and ‘Godot’ are much funnier than they’re given credit for.

  • Jacko

    Deaglan

    You’re right. The dark, often black, humour of Beckett is too often missed.

    mickhall

    Mick, this is wholly inadequate but for me it is a combination of things. So often his works are about the solitary individual(s) railing at a world he cannot change or even understand, and from a life that he both hates and loves in equal measure. It’s the perpetual outsider, the loner, talking. It’s his questioning of God. His Protestant (and Irish) black humour. He asks the questions for everyman.
    The writing is beautiful.

    Sorry, that’s nowhere near it but the best I can do.

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    It may be a bit of a cop-out, but I did like this quote from the first article at the Guardian link[see above], attributed to Brendan Behan –

    “I don’t understand what Samuel Beckett’s works are about,” he said. “But I don’t understand what a swim in the ocean is about. I just love the flow of the water over my body.”

  • TL

    Isn’t the beauty of his work a certain vaugeness? The space left open for the reader to project themself?

  • Jacko

    Pete Baker

    A lovely, lovely, quote.

    If I had read it beforehand I would never have posted my poor effort.

  • Jacko

    TL

    Yes, that certainly is a major part of it.
    When directing actors he always insisted on the actual spaces in his work, saying they were as important as the dialogue.

  • nmc

    When Godot was first performed it was ripped apart by the critics, mostly because they couldn’t figure out the underlying point. The problem was, there was no real underlying point. Just two guys, waiting for Godot.

  • alexander bowman

    Mick,

    It’s hard to better Beckett’s own view on life and, probably, art as well.

    He’s just been asked – I can’t offhand recall the source of this, so long is it now since I dabbled in the detritus and disjecta – whether or not he thought humankind had freewill?

    He replied that, indeed, he did. Then, after a prolonged pause, he explained: ‘Oh, humankind is free alright. Free in just the same way as a man is free to walk East on a ship heading West.’

  • Tom

    Here’s another cop-out quote, from Harold Pinter:

    “The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the shit the more I am grateful to him. He’s not fucking me about, he’s not leading me up any garden path, he’s not slipping me a wink, he’s not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, he’s not selling me anything I don’t want to buy — he doesn’t give a bollock whether I buy or not — he hasn’t got his hand over his heart. Well, I’ll buy his goods, hook, line and sinker, because he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty. His work is beautiful.”

    By the way, I’m writing this from Berlin, but I was recently back in Dublin and was somewhat nonplussed by the chosen method of commemoration – flags. Everywhere you go, flags. I wrote a post on my own site along these lines, if you’ll forgive the self-interested linkage: http://www.snoother.com.

    Tom.

  • alexander bowman

    Exactly the sort of dumb, crass literalism one expects from Harold Pinter which prefers to see Beckett’s work as, something on the order of, ‘an unremitting gaze at the bleakness of the human condition.’ Because from the barricades of Holland Park that’s how he needs it to be.

    Combined with his jejune notion of art’s purgative or hygenic function – ‘…the more good it does me…’ (“Eat it all up, now son, ‘n it’ll make you big and strong.”)

    And then the robust, no-nonsense ‘manliness’ of the language; ‘shit,’ ‘bollock’ etc.

    What unspeakable bollix…

  • tom

    Hee hee. I don’t really know if you’re taking the piss or not, but I can’t help but assume that you’re trying to get a rise out of us (and add in some fancy words and art-speak pot-shots while you’re at it). Grand so. I like the quote. You don’t. We could potentially have an interesting chat about it, except that I get the feeling that you prefer to shout your opinions at people.

  • alexander bowman

    Tom,

    Whatever ‘good’ reading Beckett did ‘Arold, it – sorely – failed to prevent him, whenever he’s (all too frequently) inspired to unload his mind about the condition of the world, from coming out with the most rabbit-in-the-headlights kind of fourth-form apercus in the form of what, rather shamelessly, he calls ‘poems.’.

    (Admittedly ‘world’ is currently on something of a bummer – but it’s like ONLY old ‘Arold can see it.

    Wouldn’t catch Sam issuing such vatic pronunciamenti.)

    Fancy words? ‘Jejune’ or ‘bollix?’